KARACHI – Pakistan has decided to release as many as 439 arrested Indian fishermen in two batches as a goodwill gesture to strengthen ties amid cross border tension.

A batch of 220 fishermen will be released on 25th December with another batch of 219 on 5th January 2017.

The release is important in the context that there have been no bilateral talks and the release came amid complete pause on the dialogue.

The PIPFPD (Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) demanded the Indian government to reciprocate by releasing Pakistani fishermen from Indian prisons.

The Indian Coast Guard on Tuesday claimed to have apprehended 26 Pakistani fishermen and seized five fishing boats off Gujarat coast near Kutch as they crossed the Indian territorial waters.

As of today, there are 516 Indian fishermen in Pakistan’s Karachi prison and around 80 Pakistani fishermen in various prisons in Gujarat, India. Fishermen from Saurashtra, Gujarat and Diu have no option but to go towards Pakistan to catch fish and survive.

The PIPFPD has been demanding that India and Pakistan must release all the fishermen from their custody. The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of retired judges of higher judiciaries, set up by both governments in 2008 needs to meet urgently, according to the PIPFPD.

The committee used to meet regularly every six months but have not met since BJP-led government came into power under Narendra Modi’s regime.

The PIPFPD demanded that Pakistan should release 22 boats of Indian fishermen as agreed earlier.

“The boats are the only source of livelihood for fishermen of India and Pakistan,” said a statement.

Pakistan and India often arrest fishermen from each others country for violation of their territorial waters in the Arabian Sea.